CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - Marines with 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company conducted tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel training aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Oct. 21.
A recent TRAP mission quickly became famous when Marines assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit flew to Benghazi, Libya, on short notice to rescue a pilot and recover an Air Force F-15E.
The Marines flew an Osprey from an amphibious assault ship and flew 150 miles in darkness to the crash sight. The mission was dangerous alone but even more risky with rebel forces holding territory east of Benghazi at the time.
These operations have occurred numerous times during the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and are almost always done on very short notice. These high-speed operations wouldn’t be possible without experienced Marines and a great amount of training.
Sgt. Jeffreye Silva, training noncommissioned officer for 2nd Brigade Platoon, 1st ANGLICO, has deployed several times to Afghanistan and Iraq and is very familiar with the conduct and significance of TRAP.
“TRAP missions are important, because if an aircraft goes down, that’s a target of opportunity for the enemy,” Silva said. “If they grab our sensitive items or learn how we operate, that’s just and advantage for them.”
Time is of the essence when materials need to be destroyed or personnel need to be recovered, but there is a specific method to ensure a successful mission.
Staff Sgt. Ronaldo J. Sereal, communication chief of 1st Brigade Platoon, 1st ANGLICO and convoy commander during the TRAP exercise, has nearly 13 years of experience within his job field.
During the exercise, a convoy of five Humvees waited while two helicopters circled the area, searching for the downed pilots. The air support kept in contact with the convoy and led them to their location.
When the pilots are found, they are extracted and eventually medevaced by helicopter.
“You never walk into a TRAP mission saying ‘let’s go get the pilots,’” Sereal said. “You might take mortars, snipers or whatever the case may be. Yesterday was a perfect scenario for the junior Marines to see that happen, because nothing is perfect in the real world.”
Sereal and his Marines have an order of safety concerns to prevent or resist unexpected situations, and ensure the mission is successful.
“Our main focus is first going to be security for the pilots up in the air, because you never know what type of weapons the guys have down below,” Sereal said. “Second is security for the two injured pilots. Then, we have to worry about the sensitive items and make sure we destroy those.”
Silva said the 1st ANGLICO Marines operate in such small teams, they are often held responsible as individuals to know what to do and how to do it. He said they never know who they’ll support next, but they’re always preparing.
“Like anything in the Marine Corps, practice makes perfect,” Silva said. “You want to set those standard operating procedures on what each individual does to make sure individual actions under fire can still do their job.”